Empowering People
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A Moment with our EDTP Graduates - Tisha Davis

Posted on 7/20/2021 by Ray Lamboy in LAEDA News

Tisha Davis is the owner and operator of Design Junkie Tees, a custom T-shirt design company. She is also a graduate of LAEDA’s Entrepreneurial Development Training Program (EDTP). We had a chance to sit down with Tisha Davis to ask about her experience with entrepreneurship and LAEDA's training program.

LAEDA: Entrepreneurship is a very challenging path to take with many different directions. What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I was born an entrepreneur. My Daddy was an entrepreneur. He was a photographer and a clothes designer. Although he passed when I was 8 years old, I remember watching him work. He would sit at his sewing machine late at night, with a photo album on the table with pictures of my step-mother. aunts and cousins wearing his designs and a row of belts laying on the couch. I would stand with my arms stretched out and he would make a dress right on me. Then, he would pick out matching bows for my hair and do a photo shoot of me. The bathroom was his dark room. I would see small pictures and in the morning, a 16" x 20" picture would be laying in a tray of solution in the bathtub. Posters of me, my step-mother and my brothers hung in Woolworth's windows across the street from Carnegie Hall in New York City. I was fascinated by my father. He was so talented.

Further, both of my grandmothers had entrepreneurial ventures. My maternal grandmother hosted bus rides to Croton on the Hudson. She also made curtains and drapes, crocheted items, plant hangers and dolls for sale. She also applied wallpaper and she was an expert! My paternal grandmother owned a bodega on 116th Street with her husband. I worked there some weekends as a child. She also sold women's clothing. So, I got it honest.

My earlier entrepreneurial ventures as a teenager consisted of tutoring my next door neighbor, making and selling soaps, braiding hair, and babysitting.

LAEDA: Why did you choose your industry?

I love graphic design. I've been designing flyers, posters, signage, invitations, shirts, programs, presentations, bookmarks, etc. for decades. I had recently completed a certificate in graphic design and wanted to utilize that skill set. So, I decided to start with shirts. I never intended to box myself in to only making shirts. I researched this opportunity and it was a viable place to step back into the world of entrepreneurship.

LAEDA: Tell me about your experience while attending LAEDA’s Training Program.  What has the major takeaways been from the program? Have you any AH-ha moments! How did the program help you?

I participated in the LAEDA program in 2009 when I was working my event planning business. This was an invaluable program that I'd highly recommend. It was a very comprehensive program that taught about creating a business plan, marketing, accounting and bookkeeping, and many facets of being a business owner. There were many experts in various aspects of business who came out and taught us. They allowed us to stay in touch with them. We all presented toward the end of the program and developed a rapport with each other. I am still connected to many members of my cohort on Facebook. 

I was particularly intrigued with the marketing component. I enjoyed the process of developing my presentation. The program helped me develop a presentation that I could pitch to banks for financing. Unfortunately, my business wasn't successful. I have since pivoted and am currently building businesses under the LLC. I am able to utilize some of the tools I've learned in the program in my current business and have been fortunate to be working with and supported by Sophie Werner at LAEDA. The organization continues to be helpful to me. 

LAEDA: Tell me about your journey on the road to business start-up. What happened some of the challenges, successes, and failures?

For this particular business, I took two weeks to conduct research, develop a business plan and create a website. I decided on a drop shipping model to minimize expenses. I immediately found an affordable platform. I announced my new business on Facebook and 40 minutes later, one of my sorority sisters, Darlene, placed a custom order! Her support at that moment gave me the confidence to know that I could be successful with this business. And I was off! I had a full-time job, so this was a side hustle. I used some income from my job to invest in the business. And I worked late at night, designing, responding to customers, dealing with vendors, setting up systems, etc. 

I went from MailChimp to Constant Contact to ConvertKit. I tried so many apps: Over, Canva, Planoly, Wave, and others. I used various vendors and suppliers. I struggled getting things set up like taxes and shipping. I had to learn so many things. I tried Facebook Ads. I posted on social media often. I paid attention to some things and overlooked other things. As a solopreneur, it's quite difficult getting everything set up, servicing your customers and balancing the rest of your life. 

Some of the failures include creating products that no one wanted. I did that a few times. I learned you have to ask and listen to your audience. "Build it and they will come" is not true. Entrepreneurship is not a fairytale. As I say, fairy dust has been discontinued. Success has happened for my business when I was very much in tune with my customer base. Back in August, I listened to my audience. I spent days and nights creating shirts they wanted and they bought them. That month, I had an $8K month, which is my highest sales month to date.  

LAEDA: Could you tell me a little about where your business is today?

Today, we are on-target to hit a $50K year in revenues, although that's under our revenue goals. We're clearly showing steady growth. We have an audience who relies on us for their apparel needs for all occasions, family reunions, girls’ trips, birthday parties, anniversaries and the like. They're referring us to their friends and colleagues. We are fortunate to have dozens of repeat customers. We regularly receive pictures of our customers wearing their shirts and products. And it makes my day when I receive a testimonial from a happy customer. We are also a licensed vendor with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., which I have been a proud member for 38 years. 

In the last year, I increased my education with a Certificate in Entrepreneurship Essentials from Harvard Business School; the completion of a five-week Entrepreneurship program for minority women with SCORE and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in which I was one of two winners of a pitch competition; and the completion of the Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program with Wharton at the he University of Pennsylvania. 

We are shifting our focus from individual sales to corporate (bulk) orders. We are in the process of applying to become MBE certified to increase our corporate client base. We are currently in the process of creating two new websites simultaneously. Swaglady.club will target the ladies and Designjunkietees.com with target the companies. These sites together will serve all of your T-shirt and apparel needs

LAEDA: Do you have any advice for future (or existing) entrepreneurs?

Give yourself some grace. Not everything will happen at once or even within your time frame. If you keep pushing, you'll get there. Remember, it's your business. Educate yourself on everything you need to know so you can make educated decisions. Make decisions and own up to them. Take calculated risks. Either you'll win or you'll learn. Understand that not everything you set out to do will be successful. Sometimes you have to dream another dream. Never give up on yourself. As you're navigating through this journey, you will meet people, leave people, learn about new systems, stop using old systems, be exposed to new opportunities, have many successes and many failures. You will grow and be stretched in many areas. Dismiss the negative people. Take time to enjoy the journey. Smell the flowers. Get your sleep. Minimize stress. Don't sweat the small stuff. Spend quality time with your family. Drink water. Eat healthy. Mind your business. Live. Laugh. Love. 

Design Junkie Tees is a custom T-shirt design company. Founded in May 2018, we are a vehicle for women to raise their voices through apparel. The days of being silent are over! We also help business owners brand and promote their businesses through apparel and promotional products. 

Tisha can be reached at Tisha.Davis@yahoo.com or via www.designjunkietees.com.

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The Entrepreneurial Development Training Program (EDTP) is a free, nine-week business skills training course offered in Camden, NJ in the Spring and Fall each year. Qualified entrepreneurs receive 72+ hours of training from industry professionals, business planning, and continued technical assistance. Apply online at www.LAEDA.com.